Pastor Lucy Paynter
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Outpouring

Waiting

Time has the most beautiful way of sieving out the fluff from the important things. That is why, even if a ten-year-old knows how to drive, they have to wait until they’re at least 16 to get a driving license. Because driving is more than getting behind the wheel and making that car move. It involves a lot more that can be learned between the time one gets the car moving successfully and the time one can be declared safe to drive, both for themselves and other road users.

Waiting is one of the most difficult aspects of our lives in general and not just the Christian life. Although, of course, people don’t like to wait. But we do, nevertheless, because it’s part of the process of getting what and where we want. 

The Risen Christ

 

The book of Acts is a continuation by Luke from where he left in the book of Luke. He begins by addressing Theophilus, a Roman official whom he held in high regard. Next, Luke introduces the risen Christ to Theophilus and the promises that Jesus had made to his disciples. Finally, he presents a continuation of Christ’s works after his resurrection.

 

In Acts 1:1-11, Luke says to Theophilus; In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:

“Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The Promise

In verses 2 and 3, Luke reminds Theophilus of the last works of Jesus before his ascension. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gave his disciples commandments and infallible proof of life. He taught them things about the kingdom of God during the 40 days that he was with them after his resurrection.  It is important to note at this stage that this is the resurrected, glorified Christ. Still, even with the authority and sovereignty that was His, he chose to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to direct the instructions he was about to give the disciples.

Before He even got to the point where He would tell them to wait upon the infilling of the Holy Spirit, He himself exemplified the role of the Holy Spirit in the mission they were about to embark on. There could be no better example to show that we cannot do the work appointed us without the anointing of the Holy Spirit if our Lord Jesus was bound to the Holy Spirit for the power of His ministry.

In verses 4 and 5, we see Jesus giving His final command to the disciples. They were to do nothing else but wait for the Holy Spirit. This was the promise of the Father, and without which they would not have done anything meaningful for the kingdom of God. It was a gift promised by God Himself, which meant it was bound to be fulfilled that it was something worth waiting for. Something that they would have to have faith and patience to receive. 

This was a promise that was woven into the fabric of the Ministry long before it began. Jesus told them that they would be baptized WITH the Holy Spirit. And this brings out the concept of baptism as we know it, and as had happened with Jesus during His baptism. The concept of total immersion into and absolute covering by the holy spirit.

This was the condition that had to be fulfilled before anything else. This is what would give them the power to perform miracles. The Holy Spirit would enlighten them, sanctify their souls, and set them on the divine path. Even though Jesus did not give the disciples the exact date when the promise will be fulfilled, they knew that they had to wait until when it was God’s time. 

 

On hearing the words of Jesus, the disciples must have thought that He was speaking apocalyptically and thus their interest in knowing if the time had finally come for the kingdom of Israel to be restored. We see Jesus rebuking them, albeit gently, and focusing their attention back to the Holy Spirit and their mission to be His witnesses in the world.

The conclusion of the dialogue is a rather interesting one if you’re careful with details. It ends with a declarative statement, or rather a prophesy, that we see fulfilled in Acts 1-7 as the apostles preach through Jerusalem. Acts 8-12 is a record of the gospel in Judea and Samaria, and 13-28 is the gospel to the world. Just like Jesus has said,

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

The Testing

Unlike the way Jesus appeared and reappeared after the resurrection, we see Him in the last of the verses we have read today, being lifted to the heavens. This was so designed that the disciples would know He was good for good this time, and the next phase was about to begin because it was only after He was gone that the Holy Spirit, the Helper, would descend.

For the second time, the disciples appear distracted by yet another event, and it’s only after the angels have appeared and asked them why they stand there staring at the sky that they remember their commissioning and go back to Jerusalem to wait upon the Holy Spirit. 

We have just begun a new series on the OUTPOURING, and as we said at the beginning of today’s sermon, waiting is part of the process of getting what we want. The Biblical sense of waiting, especially on the promises of God, is not passive waiting. It is a process of becoming what God intends for us to become.

Even after the ground has been prepared and readied for the seed, a farmer knows to wait for the outpouring of the rain. It requires patience and the understanding that God is in control of His promise and its fulfillment. The period between when the promise is given and when it is fulfilled is the time for us to set our priorities right. It teaches us to persevere and train our focus on the promises of the Father, whose word is YES and AMEN.

The Sting of Death

Mystery

The end of life has been a mystery over thousands of generations. Death is unexplainable to humanity, yet it happens all the time globally. The issue of death has for ages defeated the human mind.

 Presently the underlying mysteries have not been unraveled. In fact, during these technological and scientific advancements, the mystery surrounding death has been weighty than ever before.

Moreover, no scientific knowledge gathered offers an elaborate explanation of what transpires after one dies. However, religious beliefs and conscience give hope and create the image of an afterlife.

The only thing that most people are in consensus about death is its sense of finality-an end. In the quest to understand death, people have different analogies and philosophies to understand the afterlife.

Humanity tends to find comfort in knowing death collectively depending on the culture, race, religion, or geographical area. The worst menace about death is that it occurs in infants throughout to the aged. It is known as the only certainty of life because it is inevitable.

The unpreparedness of when it might happen grips many with fear. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a known psychiatrist and author of many books on death, tried to analyze death and came up with theories on dealing with death as no concrete evidence gives a picture of what follows death.

No matter how we try to deal with death, the questions remain, is death merely the absence of life? Can understanding death alleviate its fear? Can anyone reach the level of not being afraid of death?

RELIGION

Therefore, the religious perspective about the antecedents of death holds a prominent place in such discussions. For instance, most renowned world religions share a common stand about transforming from one life to the other upon death. It is a common belief that; death is not an end of life per se, but it is rather a bridge or a stepping stone to the next life.

As such, many religious denominations use their sacred writs to offer this explanation. The Christians use the Bible, the Muslims the Quran, which shares lots of similarities in the afterlife. Hence, it is evident that religion answers the question that science fails to.

The Bible and the Quran base their stories on a promise. Both books expressly provide that there is a promised land purposely prepared for dwelling by those who follow the deity rules. Moreover, in this case, it is the rules of God and Allah, respectively, as referred.

For instance, the Bible categorically states that Jesus (John 14:3). Went to prepare a place for those who believe in Him and abide by the rules of God.

Moreover, it further says the believers will inherit eternal life in paradise. Similarly, the Quran propounds the same message. For instance, the Quran provides that those who follow Allah’s will shall be partakers of the heavenly kingdom referred to as paradise. The followers rest assured of a reunion with their loved ones who died before them. Therefore, death’s image as the end of life is nullified by religious beliefs; they give the hope of an afterlife.

Therefore, gathering from what these Holy Books offer, the earthly life is just fleeting and temporary. It is just an avenue where people are vested with the free will to choose either: to abide by the law, which leads to eternal life or to go astray and experience eternal suffering. It is evident that regardless of the ways that the subjects choose, the notion of life after death exists. Either way, death leads to another life where one receives the rewards of their deeds in the physical life.

CULTURE

Different cultures perform rituals and rites to help them understand or deal with death. Eastern and some Asian cultures believe in the incarnation, the reappearing after death in another form. Some believe in returning in the form of animals or inhabiting the life of a newborn baby. Vilma Ruddock, the author of “Death Rituals in Africa,” states, “

Death rituals in Africa are deeply rooted in the continent’s cultural beliefs, traditions, and indigenous religions. Africans’ view of existence guides them after death and the power and role of the deceased ancestor. Rituals evolved through the infusion of Christianity, Islam, and modern changes, but traditional themes survive in Africa and among people of African descent in the Caribbean and the Americas.”

Fear of displeasing the dead among some cultures in Africa leads them to perform theatrical rituals. All night vigils are held at the deceased home to allow family, friends, and neighbors to pay their last respects. During that mourning season, all people shave their heads bald and wail all night. Some go to the extent of hiring expert Wailers to perform the mourning dirge.

They slaughter cows and goats, the blood and traditional drinks are poured as libations to appease the ancestors. Others rituals follow the funeral to ensure that the deceased spirit rests in peace. Failure to appease the dead is believed to cause nightmares and bad luck in the family.

Gillian Welch, an American singer, and songwriter sang a song dubbed “Am Not Afraid To Die.” There may be people who echo that phrase, but if sincerity were measurable, they would be found wanting. In the Western cultures, society has a way of creating a fantasy that some people have immortality, great leaders, celebrities, and mostly our loved ones.
Guy Somerset wrote about “The Four Stages Of Western Celebrity Grief Syndrome.” The stages range from disbelief to devotionals to exaggeration and finally capitalization. The same case applies to many with the death of a loved one. The first reaction is denial because, in our minds, death should never occur to them.

The disbelief that death has found a way to sting where it hurts most reflects on the illusion many have created around themselves as a way to ignore its existence. In the case of celebrities, some weeks later, after their death, was the breaking news. The funeral rituals are performed. Their wealth is divided among the heirs, and a month later, they tend to be forgotten.

Unfortunately, when death occurs to a loved one, reality sets in. The mask is torn apart, and then one can only hold on to a belief that will emanate inner strength to face reality. The demise of a loved one going on a journey never to be returned. The bereaved go through grief on different levels, throughout the mind trying to understand the meaning of death.

Behind the grief is the overwhelming fear that death may find its way to them. There are cases where death occurs, and body is not recovered, and there is no closure; there remains a ray of hope that one day the presumed dead would reappear.

Moreover, the loss of interest in living may occur to someone grieving. Lack of appetite, sleep, and lack of general life drive may be displayed by the bereaved. Some go to the extent of declaring they have no more desire to live.

However, if something threatening happens, they may react with the flight or freeze stress reactions. Both responses display hidden fear of death. Nobody wants to die, no matter how verbal his or her lack of interest in life.

Finally, some hide their fear of death by becoming angry at the dead. They blame the dead for allowing it to have victory over their life. There is a fantasy that there could have been an action powerful enough to stop death in their anger.

Ironically when asked to explain what measures could overcome death, all they have is the question, “ why did they die?” Eventually, some might end up taking the behavior of the departed to preserve their memories.

In conclusion, death will remain the scary hidden monster that produces its painful sting in random time to all humanity through countless generations. No scholar, culture, or group has answers to reduce the personal fear of death in humankind. There is comfort in trying to understand the afterlife, but we are yet to understand death and its sting.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55‭-‬57 NIV

As a believer, I draw strength from knowing that death has lost its sting through Jesus Christ. How do you try to process loss, especially now in the pandemic era, and death has taken away someone you knew? Let us have conversations about it. Your suggestions, views, maybe what someone else needs. Others need to know they are not alone.

Check out this sites for more resources on griefsupport.

Undoing isolation for young adults grieving the illness or death of someone close to COVID-19.”

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Helping you cope with life after loss using meditation for grief, yoga and journaling http://mindfulnessandgrief.com/

deal with complex feelings and emotions, and figure out ways to move forward when everything seems kind of bleak.”

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Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” http://www.refugeingrief.com/

©Lucy Paynter

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